This article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Northern Gardener.
The Waite House Neighborhood Center supports the diverse Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis through a number of social programs. It aims to be a hub of urban agriculture and is the home of the Phillips Community Healthy Living Initiative (PCHLI), which is a collaboration of organizations committed to improving health and wellness.
The neighborhood center has a community garden, a community café that serves free hot meals once a week and a food shelf. The garden, called Peaceful Grounds, is in its third growing season.
The gardens combine fruit trees, edible plants, and medicinal and native plants; plants distributed through MSHS’ Minnesota Green program have found a home here. “I personally believe that having a place to grow food is a human right,” says Martin Brown, PCHLI program manager, but he notes that there’s only so much land, and some of it may be contaminated with pollutants. “To see people who now have a place to grow and share food and cultural traditions with their families—that’s where magic is in the gardens.”
Anyone can “drop in” to garden at Peaceful Grounds, take a class, and harvest produce to take home or bring to the food shelf. The center has held plant and seed swaps, and a series of permaculture classes is in the works.
Waite House supports several additional community gardens. “People really enjoy having green spaces in the neighborhood,” says Martin. “In the ’80s and ’90s, there was a problem with arson in the neighborhood, which created a lot of vacant lots. When they are turned into something productive and beautiful, it makes people happy.